MetService National weather: March 29th - 31th.
Roads are closed around Wellington as 10-metre-high swells and gale-force winds batter the capital as Kiwis across the country awake from another cold night.
It’s a frigid morning for much of the country with the lowest temperatures recorded in the South Island. Invercargill is sitting at a cool 3C, as is Queenstown while further north Nelson and Blenheim are still shivering at 6C and 4C.
In Wellington, high swells and gale-force winds battering the capital have closed roads. On Thursday morning the council decided to close the coast roads west to Owhiro Bay as heavy swells had dumped rocks and debris over them.
Wellington Electricity is warning people to prepare for power outages as a result of high winds.
“If you spot a hazard such as downed power lines, or if you have any other safety concerns, phone our emergency line on 0800 248 148. Please treat all lines and electrical equipment as live at all times.”
The conditions have sparked a warning from Wellington Regional Emergency Management (WREMO) which is urging people in coastal areas to be wary.
“Be prepared for surface flooding, debris impact in wave runup and deposition of driftwood, seaweed, sand and gravel.”
Auckland is still shy of double-digit temperatures, with a temperature of 9C after a cold night.
Overnight temperatures in the City of Sails dropped to a teeth-chattering 5.3C in Whenuapai, MetService said this morning.
On the other side of the city, at Auckland Airport, the lowest temperature had been 10C overnight.
Meteorologist Andrew James said a weather system had been moving up the country over the last couple of days, pushing cold air further north as a result.
— MetService (@MetService) March 29, 2023
A koru of cloud wrapping into a deep area of low pressure off the east coast of the North Island.
This is the low that has driven the cold air across New Zealand and is bringing the strong winds to the east coast.
The low is slowly moving away to the southeast. pic.twitter.com/JZdS79hE4E
“That has seen temperatures tumble right across the nation - with the cold being felt as far north as the likes of Kaitaia, where it’s only 6C at the moment,” he said just after 6am.
Coldest place in NZ last night
The coldest place to be overnight was recorded at Manapouri Airport south of Te Anau with -4.1C, while Tekapo recorded -3.9C.
Other frosty temperatures were recorded in Alexandra, in Central Otago, which was hit with -1.1C and those in Wanaka would have been reaching for another blanket, with 1C recorded overnight.
The chilly temperatures come as weather forecasters predicted yesterday that Auckland would see one of its coldest nights since March in 1965, when 6.6C was recorded in the city.
Brrrrrr 🥶Here is a look at some of the coldest places around the country this morning.Another cold night expected...Posted by MetService New Zealand onWednesday, March 29, 2023
Further north, Kerikeri temperatures were expected to drop to a chilly 6C last night, which would match its coldest March temperature since 1978, MetService meteorologist Clare O’Connor said.
O’Connor warned that Southland should expect a frosty morning today.
The area of low pressure that is causing this cold snap is expected to spin out east of the country as the weekend begins, O’Connor said, meaning the temperatures will settle back down to seasonal norms by next week.
Heavy swell warnings in Wellington and Wairarapa
An orange heavy swell warning was put in place for Wellington and Wairarapa yesterday, with swells expected to reach a peak of 7m.
“Southerly combined waves 6m early Wednesday evening, rising to 7m late Wednesday evening, then easing to 6m early Thursday afternoon and to 4m Thursday night,” MetService said yesterday.
Wellington City Council issued an alert early this morning saying contractors have closed the coast roads between Moa Point, by the airport, and west to Ōwhiro Bay because of dangerous conditions caused by large southerly swells and debris on the roadway. They later said Moa Point Road adjacent to Wellington Airport has reopened to traffic.
UPDATE: Moa Point Road adjacent to Wellington Airport has reopened to traffic – however motorists are asked to take care due to wave spray and the fact some light debris is still on parts of the roadway. The roadway from Reef Street, Island Bay, to Owhiro Bay remains closed. https://t.co/9rQKMe3DGb— Wellington City Council (@WgtnCC) March 29, 2023
The weather has seen more Cook Strait ferry services cancelled today.
All Interislander sailings on Thursday afternoon are now cancelled due to large swells and winds in the capital.
“Safety is paramount for both our passengers and crew which has forced us to make this difficult decision,” an alert on the Interislander website said.
All customers affected by these cancelled sailings will receive an email and text.
An orange strong wind warning is also in place for Wellington and Wairarapa, which began 6pm yesterday and is expected to last until 3pm today.
“Expect severe southwest gales, gusting 120km/h in exposed places, particularly about Wellington and coastal areas of Wairarapa,” MetService said.
“Winds may ease in Wellington earlier during [this] afternoon.”
Rotorua wakes to the coldest day of the year
Bay of Plenty has woken up to its coldest day of the year so far.
The lowest temperature recorded in the region overnight was at Galatea, dropping to a frigid 1.9C.
Rotorua dipped to 2.8C overnight, while Whakatāne dropped to 3.4C. It was slightly warmer in Tauranga at 7.3C and Taupō at 7.5C.
Urgent plea to Christchurch residents
Due to the cold temperatures this week, Transpower put out an urgent plea to Christchurch residents yesterday to reduce electricity use to minimise the risk of power cuts due to surging electricity demand.
“A situation has occurred with electricity demand soaring because of unseasonable cold weather while a transformer at Islington substation is on a planned outage,” Transpower said.
“Because it is a cold evening, Transpower is advising people to stay warm by continuing to heat the rooms they are using but asking them to consider turning down the temperature a degree or two.”
The power company suggested Christchurch residents delay putting on a load of washing, delay using the dryer or dishwasher, delay charging electronic devices and electric vehicles, and turn off heaters and lights in rooms that aren’t being used.
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Could be the coldest winter in three years
Meanwhile, Niwa’s Ben Noll said this winter may feel significantly colder than the previous three, with this week’s temperatures serving as a preview of things to come.
Noll pointed out that Monday’s maximum temperature in Invercargill only reached 11.9C, making it the coldest March maximum since 2009.
That year happened to feature something scientists say is gradually underway now: the formation of an El Nino climate pattern.
Traditionally, this regime brings the opposite of La Nina, which has contributed to a trio of record-warm winters.
This month, scientists have been watching La Nina’s unusual three-year reign come to an end, with help from a tropical phenomenon called a westerly wind burst, which has effectively pushed it off the stage.
And as our climate state shifted toward El Nino, Noll said, we might not see as much of that abnormal winter warmth in 2023.
“The tendency may be for more southerly winds like we’re seeing this week,” he said.
“Over the last couple of winters, we saw more of a northerly wind pattern, which certainly isn’t what we’d consider a cold wind direction.”
Noll said the winters of 2020, 2021 and 2022 had come in at 0.97C, 1.16C and 1.2C above average respectively – and last year’s also happened to be New Zealand’s wettest on record.